Lack of political will to invest in agriculture in Africa has led to a vicious cycle that could keep costing the continent billions of dollars annually. The president of the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Mr Kanayo Nwanze, says Africa spends $35 billion a year to import food, money that could have been used to create jobs in agriculture. While Africa has a quarter of the world's arable land, it only generates 10 per cent of global agricultural output. "If even a portion of the money used for food imports was spent on creating jobs in rural areas, not only would the world's largest youth population see a viable future on the continent, but Africa would be able to feed itself," Mr Nwanze adds.
Employing directly and indirectly about 65.5 per cent of Tanzanians, contributing 29 per cent to GDP and comprising 30 per cent of exports and 65 per cent of inputs to the industrial sector, agriculture is the veritable backbone of the Tanzanian economy. But one could be forgiven for thinking that adequate public investment is being poured into the sector to add value to the livelihoods of at least 35 million Tanzanians. Budgetary allocations in the agriculture sector are inadequate and have been the cause of its slow growth, making higher earnings for the rural population a far-fetched dream.
Poor investment in agriculture has made Tanzania in particular and Africa in general a net food importer, wasting the limited financial resources that could have been invested in the sector and create millions of jobs.
Tanzania's food import situation is worrying. Available statistics show that the country spent Sh885.8 billion ($421.8 million) on food and foodstuff imports in the 12 months between May 2015 and May 2016, according to the Bank of Tanzania. This is equivalent to 88.5 per cent of the total budget for the agriculture sector in 2015/16.
Tanzania spends significant resources on food imports despite the fact that the country is considered food self-sufficient with food production exceeding 100 per cent of demand "in years of adequate rainfall". Tanzania had a food surplus of 2.6 million tonnes following more than adequate rains and harvests during the 2013/14 and 2014/15 farming seasons. The country harvested about 15.5 million tonnes of food in 2014/15 (to be consumed in the 2015/16 financial year). Among these, 8.9 million tonnes were grain and 6.6 million tonnes non-cereal harvests. The total food demand in 2015/16 was 12.9 million tonnes (8.2 million cereal and 4.8 non cereal) Food supply analysis shows that Tanzania is food sufficient by 120 per cent, down from 125 per cent in 2014/15,
Among the 25 Mainland regions, however, only nine regions had food surplus, six were food sufficient and six had food shortages in the period under review. Despite good harvests, at least 69 district face serious food shortages.
Experts say famine persists in Tanzania due to extreme poverty as well as poor infrastructure and inadequate distribution channels.
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